I’m using this still, closed-in, quieter time in life to look at the self I am right now. Part of doing that is looking at all the versions of self I’ve been before. All these have combined, transformed, and brought me to this point.
Do I love myself right now? Can I?
To love who I am now—this version, Self: Present Model—to appreciate fully all I am and am not, all I have chosen, all I have to give, requires me to accept and appreciate the versions of self which have died to bring this Me into being.
That’s a bit tricky, isn’t it?
Some versions of myself I don’t like. Some versions I look back on with disdain, or shame, embarrassment or dis-ease, a fundamental discomfort with what and who I’ve been that is so difficult to face.
There’s the internally conflicted, overly private, self-repressive version of me, in which a naïve, earnest, trying-so-hard-to-be-good half continually battled with a buried-rebel, longing-for-freedom half. I spent a lot of years being that version of myself.
There’s the version of me who wouldn’t stand up for herself.
There’s the version of me who believed everything I was told about what made me good and valuable and worthy, and what (or who) could take away that value.
There’s the version of me who thought that sacrifice and control were the only ways to love.
There’s the version of me who thought I was broken, fucked-up, damaged, useless, wrong wrong wrong in every way that a person can be wrong.
There’s the arrogant, knowledge-hungry version of me who needed to feel superior in order to feel okay, because I started from a place of feeling inferior and needed to prove I knew enough, had done enough, earned enough to be seen and valued.
There’s the version of me who thought pleasing and agreeing were requirements for connection, who wanted love so bad that she betrayed and disrespected and ignored herself in order to get it.
There’s the version of me who had impeccable moral standards, a solid line on capital-T Truth, answers and advice based on sound guidelines, and absolutely no clue about anything at all.
There’s the version of me who was a true believer.
There’s the version of me who took responsibility for everyone’s feelings and tried to make everyone okay, safe, happy and felt like a failure whenever she couldn’t do it, whenever one of her people felt pain, any pain.
There’s the version of me who gave a fuck what people thought of her.
I’ve left behind these versions of me.
Sometimes they come back around: ghosts in the hall, voices in my head. Sometimes I have to snap back to the present, to the Me who exists now. The self I choose to be, this version, in the present, here, now.
Sometimes leaving a version of yourself behind isn’t a thing you do willingly but a thing that happens, without your knowledge or consent, and you have to catch up with yourself.
Sometimes leaving a version of yourself behind is all will, deliberate choice, and you have to do it despite all the feelings and beliefs that tell you otherwise, that laugh at your efforts, tell you it’s impossible, scream how you’d better not, warn you of terrible consequences…but you know you know you know that it’s time to grow up, time to let go and go on.
I don’t regret leaving any version of myself behind.
I do regret looking back with shame or disdain rather than acceptance and gratitude.
I couldn’t be where I am or who I am now without every single version of self I’ve been. To regret being some past version of myself is to deny and disregard who I am now. Who I am now is only possible because of who I’ve been in the past. One step leads to another.
How can I love and accept who I am now if I can’t love and accept who I was?
Accepting who I’ve been doesn’t mean excusing my poor choices, my mistakes, the ways I hurt myself or others. But taking responsibility does not have to mean taking on guilt, shame, or in any other way rejecting myself: past or present.
That’s a new thing I’m learning.
I can take radical responsibility for myself AND I can give complete acceptance to myself.
Both are possible.
In fact, I think that one isn’t possible without the other. When I take complete responsibility for myself, I am saying: This is all me. My choices. I blame no one. It’s all me. Every bit of it is me. It’s all on me, it all belongs to me, and I take responsibility for every single consequence that I’ve created for myself, every experience, every feeling, every response, every choice.
That feels heavy, because if there’s no one to blame, then the pain is on me. The pain I’ve caused myself, the pain I’ve caused others. For a moment, it feels like I am sinking under the weight of this burden, this responsibility.
Sinking, drowning, buried, dead.
And I’m right. The burden takes me down, holds me down, keeps me there, flailing and gasping…
Until I can’t fight anymore and I let go and go blank and sink and surrender.
Until that version of me dies—
—the version of self who blamed others, who looked upward for direction or outward for validation, who feared judgment as if it meant something, who felt the need to justify, explain, or defend herself, who hid the parts that weren’t nice or socially acceptable or valued or good, who tiptoed around other’s feelings and opinions as if they had more of a right to exist in my own life than I did.
What a trip.
Goodbye, past self. Thank you for the lessons. Thank you for doing your best.
You were truly a beautiful, heartfelt, sincere, and lovely human. You tried to walk such a careful line between kindness and honesty. You made some colossal mistakes. You believed in some screwed-up shit. You worked really really hard on the wrong things, for a long time.
That’s okay and I appreciate it all because all of that—all of who I was and what I did—all of it is what makes it possible for me to now be who I am.
And the new version that is here, now: I like her. I like her a lot.
She’s a badass female, free as a motherfucker, ready to do shit, willing to make people uncomfortable, excited about life because it is one hell of a delightful adventure.
She also cries a lot more? Not sure what that’s about.
She’s unearthing things she lost: loving poetry and staring at trees because of how beautiful they are and singing her heart out like it’s a gift to the world and not censoring herself and wanting what she wants without needing approval and walking the world in wonder and awe because look at it! It’s amazing: all of this, all of us.
When I’m not burdened with taking responsibility for others, I have the strength to take full responsibility for myself.
And when I take responsibility for myself, I draw all the power and authority over who I am and what I do right back where it belongs: in me.
I get to walk in my own authority: no one else’s. I get to accept myself on my own terms: no one else’s. I get to be what I’ve been trying to be for so long, maybe my whole life: Free.
I’m sure this version of me has plenty of screwed-up shit to work through, mistakes to make, lessons to learn, failures and challenges and potholes to fall right into.
I can’t wait.
Bring it on.
Other recently written things:
Love is not safe - The cry of a thousand women’s voices rang in my head and they did not sound happy. The scorn, judgment, assumptions, interpretations of a thousand women’s hurt and heartbreak and anger pushed me to a conclusion I knew in my heart to be wrong.
Hot flash sex: a guide for lovers of menopausal women - Your blood might be actually boiling. The cute little glimmer of sweat you had going becomes literal rivers of sweat running down your face, your back, your upper arms. You didn’t even know that your upper arms could sweat.
If nobody owed you anything - What if nobody owes you anything, and, in fact, you do get exactly what you deserve: all the time, from everyone, every experience, every encounter?
Subscribers-only letters: Oh, kind of a lot, most with audio/podcast: Spin the bottle, What it’s like to lose your sex drive, Unwilling to be unhappy. There are more: see here for a list. The ones with the Lock icon are paid-list only letters. See here for 25% discount for the paid subscription. It opens on the ‘annual’ option automatically but you can choose monthly.
Stay healthy and love who you are, because you’re fucking fantastic.
You are marvelous
The gods wait to delight